Home5G5G could be a game changer for the utilities sector: Ericsson

5G could be a game changer for the utilities sector: Ericsson

Ericsson believes that the real promise of 5G for a utility is the introduction of lower network latencies


The adoption of 5G technologies could be a game changer for utility companies, Per Wahlen, vice president and head of Business Development at Ericsson North America, told Enterprise IoT Insights.

“While the capacity and high-speed capabilities of 5G technology can certainly be utilized by a utility for video security, substation robotics, generation plant automation, and drone control for line inspection and restoration, the real promise of 5G for a utility is the introduction of lower network latencies and extends the applicability of wireless broadband into the transmission grid as a near universal communication solution,” the executive said.

“With a 5G network, latencies in below 5 milliseconds now make it possible to consider medium to high voltage system protection, high voltage transformer protection, and under-frequency load shedding among other transmission system applications,” he said.

Commenting about the role of IoT in the utility sector, the executive noted that this technology is fundamentally about command and control of assets. “Over the last 10 years, smart meters have been deployed that brought significant remote instrumentation to the distribution grid that not only measure electrical consumption, but can provide granular data on various performance characteristics, such as identifying outages and reading voltage at the consumer end to give previously unavailable near-real-time information to the utility and the consumer.”

“The success of smart metering has been leading to a keen desire to implement more intelligent instrumentation and control of more and more distribution grid assets to improve power quality and reliability of the system.  We are seeing more intelligent systems being deployed throughout the distribution grid to provide wide-area situational awareness in order to accomplish this goal.”

Wahlen noted that though utilities are looking for the ability to upgrade to 5G at a future date, today they are prioritizing cost-effective geographical coverage over bandwidth and capacity, focusing on Private LTE, but also building 5G ready networks. “This will allow them to evolve towards 5G in a smooth way with only a software upgrade of their network.

Meanwhile, regarding the role of artificial intelligence, the executive said that this technology holds the promise of improving real-time anomaly detection and mitigation as well as introducing robotics to substation and line maintenance.

“The digitalization of the utility sector began more than a decade ago. Recent availability of low band and mid-band spectrum has had the largest impact on accelerating adoption of Private LTE in the utility sector and the deployment of IoT devices, and availability of licensed 5G-capable spectrum that a utility can purchase or at least lease will have the greatest impact on the adoption of that technology as well.”

The executive also highlighted that utility companies need to wait for these new technologies to be mature and proven before deciding its implementation. “First for utilities the technology should be matured, proven and stable before it becomes an option. Second is the device ecosystem. The 5G ecosystem is developing. Third is to identify the new use cases. For a utility to deploy a 4G or 5G wireless network “cost-effectively”, it should cover a wide variety of applications within the utility. The utility should look at the greater picture and define the use cases can make that network much more cost-effective compared to purpose-built systems.”

RCR Wireless News published an editorial report dubbed “Talking About (Industrial) Revolution: Utilities” in which key industry leaders and analysts talk about how digital systems – including 5G, AI, IoT, and edge, plus other key technologies — are transforming the utilities sector. Click here to access the report.

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